Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Russia is already meddling in America’s 2018 midterm elections, and that the U.S. is not necessarily better prepared to deal with the Moscow’s influence than it was in 2016.
The U.S. intelligence community unanimously says that the Kremlin hacked, distributed leaked information, and waged a considerable media campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of President Donald Trump, and Tillerson told Fox News there’s not much the U.S. can do to stop them the next time around.
“I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt as well,” Tillerson told Fox.
The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that,” he continued. “We can take steps we can take but this is something that, once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.
Though Russia likely broke the law by having state-backed hackers steal information from the Democratic National Committee, cybercrime remains highly unattributable and below the threshold of crimes that the U.S. would respond to with military action.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speak to members of the press following a U.S. – China diplomatic and security dialogue at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017. The dialogue will help the United States narrow its differences with China while expanding cooperation in areas where possible. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Also, much of Russia’s most visible attempts to influence the election were perfectly legal. Russian media outlets bought and paid for advertising and exposure on U.S. social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, just like everyone else does.
“There’s a lot of ways that the Russians can meddle in the elections, a lot of different tools they can use,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson told Fox that he suspects Russia’s exercise of its influence has already begun and indicated that the U.S. doesn’t really have a solid plan to block it.
“I think it’s important we just continue to say to Russia, ‘Look, you think we don’t see what you’re doing. We do see it and you need to stop. If you don’t, you’re going to just continue to invite consequences for yourself,'” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s comment about consequences comes after Trump declined to impose sanctions on those with ties to Russia’s defense and intelligence apparatuses in response to the election meddling in 2016.
US Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the entire Air Force bomber fleet, ordered a safety stand down for its B-1B Lancer bombers on June 7, 2018, following an emergency landing by a Lancer in Texas in May 2018.
“During the safety investigation process following an emergency landing of a B-1B in Midland, Texas, an issue with ejection seat components was discovered that necessitated the stand-down,” the command said in a release. “As issues are resolved aircraft will return to flight.”
A B-1B bomber from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas made an emergency landing at Midland International Airport in western Texas on May 1, 2018, after an in-flight emergency. Emergency responders made it to the runway before the plane landed, and none of the four crew members onboard were injured.
It was not clear what caused the emergency, though fire crews that responded used foam on the plane.
Photos that emerged of the bomber involved showed that at least one of its four cockpit escape hatches had been blown, but the ejection seat did not deploy.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May III)
The B-1’s four-man crew includes a pilot, copilot, and two weapons officers seated behind them. All four sit in ejection seats and each seat has an escape hatch above it, according to Air Force Times. Pulling the ejection handle starts an automatic sequence in which the hatch blows off and a STAPAC rocket motor launches the seats from the aircraft. The entire process takes only seconds.
It was not clear at the time of the incident whether the blown hatch or hatches had been recovered or whether the ejection seats had failed to deploy.
A Safety Investigation Board, a panel made up of experts who investigate incidents and recommend responses, is looking into the incident at Midland, the Global Strike Command release said.
The Global Strike Command stand-down order comes about a month after the Air Force ordered a day-long, fleet-wide stand-down while it conducted a safety review following a series of deadly accidents. At the time, the Air Force said it was seeing fewer accidents but that 18 pilots and crew members had been killed since October 1, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.
The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.
“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.
A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.
North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.
Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.
U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.
Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.
“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”
But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.
North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.
Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.
To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.
Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.
U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.
Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.
Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.
Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.
“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”
That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.
Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.
But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.
Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.
While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.
A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.
Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.
“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”
Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.
In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.
Courtesy of Jenny Byers
“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.
PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.
“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”
The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.
“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”
Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.
Courtesy of Sophie Pappas
“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”
While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.
Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:
“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte
“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella
“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons
“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste
“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers
“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci
“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe
“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart
Courtesy of Kelly Callahan
“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan
A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:
“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”
In recent weeks, Wall Street has talked a lot about the fears of a coming recession, fueled by a drop in government bond yields. The casual investor may have no idea what this means for them, but for homeowners in the military and beyond, it means now is the perfect time to refinance a mortgage.
What any potential refinancer needs to know is that the falling bond yield is pushing mortgage rates to their lowest levels in three years. In November 2018, the interest rate was steady at five percent. Eight months later, the interest rate in now at 3.6 percent and looking to fall further.
This isn’t some shady internet ad, promising easy money on Obama-era mortgage laws or new Trump-era government home loans – those certainly exist and everyone should be wary about trusting easy money. But the drop in mortgage rates comes directly from Freddie Mac, whose rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.6 in August 2019. The reason is that the 30-year rate is linked to 10-year Treasury Bonds. The rate of return on those bonds just fell to their lowest since October 2016.
(St. Louis Federal Reserve)
What this means is that suddenly your homeowner dollar goes a little bit further, considering the cost of taking out a new loan or refinancing an old one just dropped. According to Caliber Home Loans, a lending company who specializes in military and veteran homebuyers, the rule of thumb used to be that the interest rate for a new mortgage must be about two percentage points below the rate of a current mortgage for refinancing to make sense.
With new low- and no-cost refinancing from Caliber and other lenders, refinancing could make sense any time – especially right now, given the latest interest rates. A refinance could reduce overall interest while reducing a monthly payment. If you acted right now, you wouldn’t be alone, not by far. Falling rates boost the U.S. housing market.
It’s important to think of your home as an investment, too.
“My applications are up across the board,” said Angela Martin, a Nashville, Tenn.-based loan officer told the Wall Street Journal. “Every time the Fed starts talking is when my phone starts ringing off the hook.”
What Martin means is the Federal Reserve just cut the benchmark interest rate after a few successive rate hikes. This is when people start looking for a better deal. But be wary – lenders will sometimes employ different perks after a rate drop to entice customers to accept things like credits at closing instead of a lower rate.
For military families and veteran homeowners, look into military-oriented lenders like Caliber Home Loans. Caliber and companies like it specialize in the needs and benefits afforded to military members and veterans. Caliber is also a proud sponsor of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community.
Early March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense asked people to choose between names for what it described as a new breed of hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile:
На официальном сайте Минобороны РФ запущен специальный сервис, предназначенный для выбора наименований новейших образцов российского оружия. С сегодняшнего дня любой посетитель официального сайта Минобороны России с помощью простого и понятного сервиса https://t.co/Fg0eglezqTpic.twitter.com/ozDnpNScCk
The results have since been announced, and they decided that the new missile should be called Burevestnik, a type of bird. It narrowly beat Palmyra, a site of clashes in Syria between Russia and the Islamic State terrorist group, and Surprise.
It also reflects a broader tendency for Russian diplomatic channels to joke about international relations.
After Russia was accused of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy on British soil, the action that prompted the US to expel the Russian diplomats, Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot should be sent to figure out the truth.
The Vanscoyk family in Yuma, Arizona. All photos by Kayla Mattox Photography.
Family first, mission always.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.
The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.
“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.
Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.
“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.
Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.
“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.
Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.
“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.
“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.
Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.
“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.
The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.
“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.
A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.
Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.
“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”
Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.
She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.
Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.
On the day I reported for duty as a volunteer in an extreme Army experiment of women’s strength, I stopped my car at the gate, watched the guard approaching, and thought about turning around. I’d seen the movies. I’d watched A Few Good Men and Private Benjamin and winced at the exhausting runs, pushups, shouting by grouchy drill instructors and general toughness required to thrive on a military base. I was a civilian at the edge of a world full of camo and shorn heads and running in formation and all I could think was, Do I have what it takes to get through this?
It was May of 1995, and scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) on the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command (USASSC) base in Natick, Massachusetts, were kicking off a seminal study to determine if women could get strong enough to perform the toughest military tasks usually assigned to men. With only one female soldier available for the seven-month program, the scientists had recruited 45 ordinary civilians. I was a 24-year-old cub reporter in average shape who loathed running. It was time to put on my big-girl pants and push myself past my limits.
From the start, our ragtag band of women seemed an unlikely crew to take on such a lofty pursuit. More weekend walkers than G.I. Janes, we came to the base at varying fitness levels, shapes and sizes, and our ranks included stay-at-home moms, teachers, a landscaper, a student, a prison guard, a bartender and one journalist. But with mighty hearts and iron will, we intended to smash through those expectations. They said women couldn’t do it. We hit back: Watch me.
We did everything asked of us and more. I strapped on a 75-pound backpack and hiked two miles over rugged terrain, and though I ended up shuffling more than running the first time, I finished (albeit with shredded heels and blood blisters). I ran until I was sick while dragging a 110-pound trailer through thick woods and a meadow choked with weeds and wildflowers. I lifted more, more, more each week, carried sandbags and heavy metal boxes until my hands were calloused, pushed through five-mile backpack hikes and sprinted up steep hills.
I was honored to carry water for the women doing the work of defending our country, and I felt pressure to show up for them—a lot of people were watching us, after all. The experiment had made international headlines even before it began when a controversy about women in combat almost shut us down, and now the big TV networks were pressing for access to the base to film us in action (they never got it—my newspaper had the exclusive). At the time, females were still banned from most ground combat roles. I knew that on average we possess around 50 to 60 percent of males’ upper body strength, but I also knew women who could perform incredible physical feats. I didn’t think it was fair for anyone to be banned from a job based on averages.
The test subjects formed fast, tight friendships to help get us through the rigorous training regimen and quickly developed our own rallying cry. In the first week, one of us blurted, “Do what?” when told to do something that seemed near impossible. “F— that!” I replied under my breath. For the rest of the study, we’d shout that call and answer to get psyched up before our toughest tests. Everyone on post knew who we were, and for a long time I noted skeptical glances and heard a snide remark or two while running through the base. But by the end, the soldiers, officers and civilian personnel were openly cheering us on.
Spoiler alert: We did it. The data showed 78 percent of test subjects could now qualify for Army jobs categorized as “very heavy,” in which soldiers must occasionally lift 100 pounds, whereas only 24 percent could at the beginning. We also showed a 33 percent improvement on the 75-pound backpack test, going from 36 minutes to 27.5 minutes for two miles. And we did it all efficiently by training 1 ½ hours a day, five days a week.
In 2016 when I learned all military jobs were opened up to women, I began my research for The Strong Ones to find out how we might have helped change things. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say the test subjects affected future military women in more ways than one.
It’s been inspiring to watch women kicking butt in so many new roles in every branch over the past few years, and interesting to hear more than a few I’ve met along the way hit back at their doubters the same way we did back then: Watch me.
For a sneak peak, see The Strong Ones book trailer below.
The recent grounding incident involving the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) in Tokyo Bay is not the first time a Navy vessel has run aground. But some have been more…notorious than others.
Grounding a ship is not exactly career-enhancing in this day and age (never mind that the Antietam spilled 1,100 gallons of oil in one of Godzilla’s favorite hangout spots). In fact, it usually means the end of one’s advancement in the Navy.
Here are a few notorious groundings over the years to remind the soon-to-be-relieved personnel that it could be worse.
1. USS Guardian (MCM 5)
The mine counter-measures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) is the first U.S. Navy ship to be lost since USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1968. The vessel ran aground on Jan. 17, 2013 on a reef, and was very thoroughly stuck. So much so that a 2013 Navy release indicated she had to be dismantled on the spot. A sad end to a 23-year career.
2. The Honda Point Disaster
Aerial view of the disaster area, showing all seven destroyers that ran aground on Honda Point during the night of 8 September 1923. Photographed from a plane assigned to USS Aroostook (CM-3). Ships are: USS Nicholas (DD-311), in the upper left; USS S.P. Lee (DD-310), astern of Nicholas; USS Delphy (DD-261), capsized in the left center; USS Young (DD-312), capsized in the center of the view; USS Chauncey (DD-296), upright ahead of Young; USS Woodbury (DD-309) on the rocks in the center; and USS Fuller (DD-297), in the lower center. The Southern Pacific Railway’s Honda Station is in the upper left. (U.S. Navy photo)
Imagine losing seven warships in a day during peacetime. Yes, that actually happened to the United States Navy. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, during the evening of Sept. 8, 1923, a navigational error lead seven destroyers to slam into rocks at Honda Point, California, at a speed of 20 knots. Twenty-three sailors were lost, as were seven Clemson-class destroyers that were about five years old.
3. USS Decatur (DD 5)
This one is notable not for any loss of life but for the career it could have derailed. Accoridng to a 2004 article in Military Review, on July 7, 1908, the destroyer USS Decatur (DD 5) ran aground on a mudbank in the Philippines. It was pulled off the next day. The commanding officer was relieved of command, court-martialed, and found guilty of “neglect of duty.”
However, his career didn’t end. That was a good thing for America because that commanding officer was Chester W. Nimitz, who would command the Pacific Fleet in World War II.
4. USS Port Royal (CG 73)
Now some groundings are just embarrassing. This is one of them. The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) had been on sea trials after about $18 million in repairs. According to a Navy release in 2009, the ship ran aground about a half mile from one of the runways at Honolulu International Airport, providing arriving and departing tourists with an interesting view for a few days.
5. USS Hartford (SSN 768)
On Oct. 25, 2003, the attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) ran aground off the island of Sardinia. According to a 2004 Navy release, fixing the damage required assets from Louisiana to Bahrain. It took 213 dives to repair the vessel enough that she could return to Norfolk at half speed. Six years later, the Hartford would collide with the amphibious transport US New Orleans (LPD 18).
A U.S. Marine stationed aboard any Naval vessel enjoys a lifestyle very similar to that of cargo. Marines are often sequestered to their color coordinated quarters (ours were red) where they sleep in coffin racks, are given a small window of time to utilize the gym, and in some cases even have separate hours for chow.
All of these measures actually have a purpose, and that is to keep green side (Marines) and blue side (Navy) separate.
However, there are jobs Marines can be volunteered for, jobs involving laundry, trash, and foodservice. Lucky enough for this young leatherneck, having a culinary degree puts you to work aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans in the galley.
So there I was, a twenty-two year old Corporal with a culinary degree being put to work as leader of the night shift aboard a navy vessel. There were no sailors under my charge, which I found to be slightly condescending, but that’s of no consequence. On my team there were no less than three infantry Marines with zero cooking experience and one supply Marine from Baton Rouge, LA, which is plenty of cooking experience on its own. We were tasked with prepping the next days lunch and dinner meals, baking fresh bread, and preparing and serving breakfast.
Unbeknownst to my crew and me, a U.S. submarine submerged at periscope depth in the straight of Hormuz was soon to make its move. The U.S.S. Hartford is a Los Angeles class Navy submarine that had a date with destiny in the form of a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship, the U.S.S. New Orleans. After 63 days at sea, it would seem that the crew of the Hartford had had enough and decided to break up the monotony with a little fender bender.
Meanwhile aboard the New Orleans in the ship’s galley were five Marines working diligently. I remember quite vividly the jarring vibration of a f**king submarine crashing into a war ship, causing a mess. I was making pancakes at the time (and none were lost — not bragging just saying).
An infantry Corporal came running in asking if I could spare one of my guys, who happened to be one of his junior Marines. I calmly approved and the Corporal decided to start screaming at his young troop to get his weapon and gear because we were under attack. The young Marine yelled back, “Yes Corporal!” before running to his quarters.
He soon returned, showcasing his, “I thought I was finally going to get to shoot my rifle in combat” face of disappointment. The rest of the crew replied with laughter and taunts.
One of our battalion’s intel Marines informed us that our theories — we hit a whale, we ran aground, we were attacked by pirates — were not only incorrect, but the hapless ramblings of the simple-minded. He then told us we would not be allowed to call out or use the internet, that all coms were being controlled, and that we were hit by our own submarine. We took him seriously until that last part.
After breakfast was ready and the crew sat down to eat in the ship’s mess area, we turned on the television for some news. We were surprised to see that not only was everything intel said true, but also that we had leaked around 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the straights. We ended up dry-docking the ship on an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia known as Bahrain.
Beautiful location, lots of black flags — if you’ve never been, I don’t recommend it.
After six weeks of dry dock repairs, the New Orleans was back in the ocean ready for duty. It was determined that the incident was solely the fault of the Hartford and its Captain, who was relieved of command along with others. Damages to the New Orleans totaled $2.3 million dollars, which may seem like a lot until compared with the $120 million dollar price tag attached to the Hartford repairs.
I actually had a beer with one of the crew of the U.S.S. Hartford. We compared stories of the incident in which he shared with me that the submarine spun like a football — nearly 90 degrees in the water (a lot for a sub). The collision trashed the entire ship and administered one of the most jarring wake-up calls in U.S. naval history.
Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.
America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.
“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”
Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.
“It amazed me,” he said.
But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.
“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”
Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.
“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”
The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the future USS South Dakota (SSN 790), the 17th submarine of the Virginia class, Sept. 24, 2018.
The ship began construction in 2013 and is scheduled to commission in early 2019. This next-generation attack submarine provides the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea superiority.
South Dakota is the seventh Virginia-class Block III submarine. Block III submarines feature a redesigned bow with enhanced payload capabilities, replacing 12 individual vertical launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles. This, among other design changes, reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.
“South Dakota’s delivery is an important milestone,” said Capt. Chris Hanson, Virginia Class Program manager. “It marks the penultimate Block III delivery and will be a vital asset in the hands of the fleet.”
The submarine’s sponsor is Deanie Dempsey, wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey.
An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS South Dakota.
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey)
The submarine will be the third U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name South Dakota. The first South Dakota (ACR 9) was a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser. The ship served in the Pacific until the American entry into World War I, where it patrolled the South Atlantic operating from Brazil, and escorted troop transports destined for Europe.
During World War II, the second South Dakota (BB 57) was commissioned as the lead ship in its class. The four ships of the South Dakota class are considered the most efficient battleships built under the limitations of the Washington Naval treaty. South Dakota served in the Pacific and Atlantic as a carrier escort and patrolled the North Atlantic with the British navy. During the ship’s second tour in the Pacific, it helped to cripple the Japanese navy during the Battle of the Philippine Sea before helping to bombard shore defenses at Okinawa and preparing for an eventual invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Virginia-class submarines are built to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations forces support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare and mine warfare missions. Their inherent stealth, endurance, mobility, and firepower directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.